AirAsia plans new services to Chinese cities

AirAsia is eyeing to increase passenger volume in the Philippines by 50% this year, a top official said.

“I just turned 50 and I still have the energy to live in the next 50 years. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines should watch out for that growth,” AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Anthony F. Fernandes said in jest during a press conference here Friday.

He said the designation of Kalibo Airport in Aklan as the airline’s secondary hub in the country will open new opportunities.

“We have a very exciting plan outside of Manila where we can open up new markets through tourism growth,” he added.

He said the carrier plans to increase domestic flights to 13 from the current seven per day between Manila and Kalibo.

In addition, the airline plans several new services to China by June, specifically to Wenzhou, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Ningbo, Changsha, Xiamen, and Hangzhou.

Marianne Hontiveros, Philippines AirAsia president and chief executive officer, said consolidation with Zest Air, Inc. this year will be a major growth driver for the airline in this country.

“We are in the final stages of consolidation with AirAsia Zest. We are just waiting for the approval of the Senate before moving to final acquisition,” Ms. Hontiveros said.

Philippines AirAsia bought into Zest Air, which has been rebranded to AirAsia Zest. The two airlines have just completed consolidation and rationalization of domestic rates.

The merger will bring total flights to 50 for domestic routes and 20 for international destinations.

Ms. Hontiveros said the carrier was also awaiting approval by the Civil Aeronautics Board to fly to Bangkok, Singapore and Japan from Manila or Kalibo.

The airline is also eyeing expansion to Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 4 and additional slots at terminal 3.

“The restoration of category 1 (by the United States Federal Aviation Administration last Apr. 9) for Manila Airport and the lifting of European Union ban (for Philippine Airlines in July last year and Cebu Pacific also on Apr. 9) will open many opportunities for AirAsia and Philippines,” she added.

Meanwhile, the airline has raised P97 million to rebuild 500 homes and finance livelihood activities for survivors of typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas. The main recipient, Philippine Red Cross, will build 325 homes in Panay for P46 million while Habitat for Humanity will get P37.4 million to construct 187 permanent housing in Tacloban City. The livelihood component has been allotted P8 million, which will be used to revive sari-sari stores through Hapinoy’s Project Bagong Araw. Some donations were set aside to aid affected airport workers.

“The campaign ‘To Philippines With Love’ received donations from people in 75 countries all over the world. AirAsia is proud to match this donation and ensure that every cent goes to rebuilding lives,” Mr. Fernandes said.

The airline accepted cash donations on board flights and at airports as well as through AirAsia Foundation’s microsite.